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IKEA, Fakesgiving, and some stuff I like.

I was one of those kids who was really interested in the private lives of my teachers. In third grade, I still had trouble reading words over about 5 letters long, but I knew where my teacher was from (Louisiana), her daughter’s name and age (Alexa, age 14), where she lived (a townhouse not far from us), the breed, age, and weight of her dog (Beagle, Rocket, approx. 40 pounds—he was a sausage), his diet to help him slim down (mixing canned green beans into his dog food), among plenty of other stuff. All of the arbitrary details that my instructors would just sort of offhandedly mention somehow got filed into this creepy subconscious Catalogue of Important Facts in my young brain, which evidently didn’t leave a lot of room for stuff like multiplication and division. Those things took way longer for me to pick up.

I’m still basically like this. I often forget what some of our close friends even do for a living, but I remember exactly where they’re from, where they went to school, when, how, and where they met their longterm boyfriend (whose occupation I similarly cannot recall), the name of their childhood family dog. It’s a mild issue in my life.

In college, I had this amazing writing professor. I loved him. Everything on the syllabus was so good and stuff I’d never read before, and his critique was always spot on, and he was just the best. He was a Serious Writer—published many times over, awarded, that type of thing—and the other students seemed to split between about 10% total reverence and 90% complete fear. It was a seminar-style class so really that 10% represents 1 person. Maybe 2. But anyway. He was great.

Why was he great? Well, I can’t totally remember by most typical metrics. Writing. Awards. I told you more or less what I know already. But one thing I do know is that he lived in Red Hook in Brooklyn, which is where IKEA is. And one time after class I casually asked if he ever went to IKEA for lunch, or just to hang out, because I’d probably do that if I lived within walking distance. And that’s when it started.

“Oh my god, have you seen the new PS collection? So much good stuff.”

“I really need a new sofa, but I can’t decide between the KARLSTAD and the KIVIK.”

“The only thing I miss about my old apartment is my PAX wardrobe. That thing was magic.”

It turned into a weekly thing. 3 hour seminar, followed by hour-long conversation outside about the merits of various IKEA products and our general, genuine love for the place. We were kindred IKEA spirits, and it was beautiful. This one time, another student tried to join in and make the case that IKEA was not all we were cracking it up to be, and things did not end well for that student. Because here’s the thing: whether you like the IKEA shopping experience or assembling the products or the products themselves at all, these things don’t negate that IKEA, I think, is the only company that has actually fulfilled the promise of modern design. Mass produced, affordable, well-designed products for regular people. That’s pretty exceptional. In the world of IKEA, nearly anybody is entitled to live with good design. I don’t really think of myself as having a lot of fondness for multi-billion dollar corporations, but clearly I have a soft spot.

A few weeks ago, something happened: IKEA approached Max and me about putting together a little Thanksgiving story. Since obviously it would have to run before actual Thanksgiving, I have been referring to it as Fakesgiving. They wanted Max to do the photography and post about it on Design*Sponge (where he’s senior editor now—go Max!), but I guess they wanted me to be in a picture or two and help style and then tweet about it. At first I was like…”wait, I’m not even supposed to write my own post? But I have so much to say!” But then I was like…”screw it, I’m going to write a post anyway.” So we decided on kind of a simple, modest Scandinavia-meets-Hudson-Valley vibe, got to go pick up a few IKEA products I’ve had my eye on, cook a bunch of food, and set up Fakesgiving in our dining room at 2 in the afternoon. It was a good practice run for when we do it for real. Then we invited a couple of friends over that night, stuck everything back in the oven for a bit, and pretended it was all for them.

So there. The Thanksgiving story is posted over on Design*Sponge, featuring a couple of recipes I made and some nice pictures of our dining room all gussied up. Instead of rehashing that post here, I woke up this morning thinking it might be fun to throw together a few of my current favorite IKEA products—some new, some old standbys. Just, you know, because. For the love of it I guess.

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1. RYSSBY 2014 Pitcher: How very adorable is this sweet enameled pitcher thing? It’s got that classic rustic kind of vibe I like for our house because it blends nicely with vintage/antique serving ware and whatnot. I don’t think I’ll ever get over my enamel phase.

2. RYSBBY 2014 Throw: We threw this on top of my DIY bench at Fakesgiving, and it’s so cute! We already have a couple of heavy-duty thick wool blankets around the house, so I actually like that this one is on the thinner side—easier to throw over the arm of a couch or a chair and just a nice, cozy throw. So classic and sweet.

3. FULLFÖLJA Scissors: I haven’t seen these in person, but that’s a cute set of scissors! I love IKEA for useful, pretty, simple items like this. Their stainless steel and wood spoons are almost all we have in our kitchen for cooking utensils, and the quality is excellent.

4. UTBUD Serving Bowl: For some reason I can’t seem to find this on the website, but this bowl is really nice! It’s very sizable—perfect for serving big salads and stuff like that. We have a lot of vintage/antique stoneware bowls I’ve collected here and there (Max has actually put a moratorium on bowl-buying…lame), but I generally only really use them for dry foods like breads and nuts and stuff. This one mixes in seamlessly with the collection, but without possibly hazardous lead in the glazing and wear from years of use. It’s delightfully heavy.

5. SENIOR Casserole + Lid: When I bought this pot about a year ago, I actually considered writing a whole post about it because it’s just that nice. The outside is enameled cast iron and the inside is cast iron, and the whole thing is appropriately thick and weighty. I’ve grown to really like cooking on cast iron—it retains and distributes heat so well, and a well-seasoned pot/pan is fairly non-stick by nature. This one leaves nothing to be desired, honestly—it’s the highest quality piece of cookware I own, and it’s good-looking. I don’t own the smaller casserole or the pan, but I always really want to buy them if only just to round out the set in case they get discontinued.

6. TEKLA Dish Towel: I love the simplicity of the TEKLA dish towel. I use them for tons of stuff, but I like for mine to go through a very specific cycle: when they’re new, they make really pretty, casual-fancy napkins (especially in the DIY copper napkin rings I made for Fakesgiving!). Once they get a couple stains that don’t come out in the wash, they turn into dish towels. Once those start to wear out or get a little ratty looking, they go into the cleaning/shop rag category. Not bad for a 79-cent item!

7. KASTRULL Pot: As soon as these came out (there’s a smaller saucepan, too), I really wanted an excuse to buy one or both. Fakesgiving was my excuse. They’re just very adorable. Since they’re enamel over fairly thin steel, these probably aren’t going to cut it as everyday cookware, but they’re great for things like sauces and soups (and gravy, Fakesgiving style). I learned this the hard way with my Dansk-Kobenstyle pot, which is similar—thinner enamel cookware just doesn’t hold up well to cooking where stuff is liable to get stuck. But anyway. Cute.

8. GUNNERN Lockable Cabinet, Red: I just bought one of these recently, and the quality is GREAT. It actually came all in one piece, too! I like that it locks, because I like secrets.

9. SANNOLIKT Curtain Rod: Woah, hold the phone. I’m really weirdly into this curtain rod, and this is coming from somebody who really struggles (insofar as one can really struggle) with curtains. A big part of my issue with curtains is that finding a good rod is tough. This one I could get down with, though, and I can see it working well in all kinds of spaces. I’ll have to check it out in person next time I’m there, but this picture has me intrigued.

10. RYSSBY 2014 Cushion Cover: I keep my eyes out for fun, graphic throw pillow covers (I feel like it’s surprisingly hard to find good ones) and these are cute! Printing it on the unbleached linen/cotton blend really makes it, I think. The two sides also have different designs, so it’s kind of like two pillows in one! I like a ton of the stuff from the RYSSBY linethe cake stand has this same pattern on it, and we used that to serve pie at Fakesgiving. In other news, I have a cake stand now! FANCY. PANTSY.

Remember to go check out Fakesgiving on Design*Sponge! Is IKEA part of your holiday tablescapes?

I can’t believe I just wrote “tablescapes.” LOL.

But seriously I want to know.

This post is kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really in partnership with IKEA USA? Thanks, Big Blue n’ Yellow!

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Sometimes I Wear Clothes, Too.

That’s right, folks. It’s time for Manhattan Nest: FASHION EDITION.

I always feel more than a little ridiculous talking with any level of authority about the stuff I drape over my body to cover my flesh, but in fact I do wear clothes (everyday, even!) and sometimes I even get a little bit excited about them. It’s taken me some time to feel this way, since I’m pretty short and slim and have a difficult time finding clothes that really fit me and I feel OK in, but I’m learning. I basically approach my wardrobe kind of like I approach my house…I guess I just want it to be clean, comfortable, simple, a little fun, with some decent items that will last for a long time.

Anyway, before get self-conscious and talk myself out of it…here are some of the things I’m wearing these days or thinking about wearing these days.

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1. Slim Fit Smog Print Shirt, Club Monaco: You know when you were a little kid and you got a new piece of clothing and you wanted to wear it every single day? That’s exactly how I feel about this shirt. It’s a lightweight cotton, so it can kind of be dressed up or down, the fit is superb, and the pattern is perfection. I’m loving seeing so many small-scale patterns pop up in menswear these days, but I especially like this one because it’s more irregular and abstract than a traditional floral print or something. Club Monaco is my favorite source for shirts—the slimmer options fit super well and the quality is great (the oxfords, especially!), and you usually don’t get both at that price point. ANYWAY. I love this shirt a whole lot.

2. Men Sweat Long Sleeve Shirt, UNIQLO: Can I just say how much it pleases me that sweatshirts and sweatpants are acceptable articles of clothing to wear in public now? Greatly. I don’t think I can pull off a pair of fashion sweatpants, but I’m all about a well-fitting sweatshirt in lieu of a sweater or cardigan. This one from Uniqlo is everything I’ve ever wanted, basically—it fits so well, although be warned it does run on the small side. I’m usually an XS but the S is perfect for me. I might get a medium just to give myself a slouchier option…

3. ASOS Bomber Jacket with Contrast Leather Look Sleeves: OK, I don’t own this, but for YEARS I have been trying to find a decent spring/fall jacket (and a winter coat, for that matter…I’m bad at outerwear). I’ve been seeing new takes on classic bomber jackets popping up all over the place this spring, and I think I want in on that action. I also like this one from J. Crew and a few others from ASOS…which means I’ll probably just be indecisive until they’re all sold out. No. I am going to order something. I am going to find joy in clothing, goddamnit.

4. 510 Skinny Fit Jeans, Levi’s: I wholeheartedly recommend the 510 Skinny Jean. It’s hard to be a boy and find just the right amount of skinny…you don’t want a legging, you don’t want too baggy, you don’t want it to be too tight in the thigh and too loose in the ankle. ET CETERA. These (which are super cheap right now…) have been my standby for couple of years now. I like the way they contain my legs and buttocks.

5. Eastland Seneca Camp Moc Chukka Boot: I found these shoes a couple weeks ago marked down to $50 at a store in Brooklyn, and I’ve pretty much been wearing them non-stop since. I also have really small feet, so I actually bought the women’s version in a size 9, but the men’s version is exactly the same. The reviews on Zappos sort of make me worry about the quality, but we’ll see. It’s always been hard for me to find a casual everyday shoe that isn’t a unisex sneaker (although I’ll probably also make my yearly white Jack Purcell purchase this summer for good measure, too…), so I’m glad to have found something a little more grown-up.

I Love Lorde and I Don’t Care That Everyone Else Does Too.

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Over the summer, Max became obsessed with all of the different music streaming services available and spent hours endlessly comparing and analyzing the relative benefits of each. A side effect of comparing the services was actually using them to listen to music, and because we spend a lot of time in the car driving back and forth to Kingston, we’d end up listening to his new discoveries together until I’d make him turn them off. I’m grouchy when it comes to all sorts of things, but music especially, and once I’ve decided I’m not into something, I’m really not into it.

Things were different when Max “found” Lorde last summer, though. I guess she was already doing pretty well on Spotify but had yet to get any radio play, and from the second he started playing The Love Club EP, I was pretty much in love with this girl.

I know it’s kind of completely ridiculous now to sit down and write anything about a now mega-famous, super successful, and broadly loved teenaged pop star, but Lorde is so…different. So much writing—whether it be essays or song lyrics—tries so hard to be “universal” that it ends up just becoming incredibly generic, and I feel like that’s what so much pop music is: generic, vague, disposable, and boring. Lorde doesn’t necessarily sing about what everyone else is singing about, though—her writing is so beautifully specific and personal. She’s not writing about being a 16 year-old girl; she’s writing about how it feels to be living her life as herself at a particular moment in time, and she renders it beautifully. That might seem like the same thing but it really isn’t—whether or not the listener relates to or understands exactly what she’s saying is completely secondary to telling her story in the way that she wants to tell it.

Back in September, my birthday was spent alone in Kingston. Max had to stay in Brooklyn for some reason, the dogs were curled up by themselves somewhere, and I was spending the evening trying to manage all of the construction debris and garbage and clutter that had accumulated in the front parlor room after the destruction of the vestibule wall. By some amazing coincidence, Lorde’s first full-length album Pure Heroine had also come out that day, and I remember listening to it on repeat while I was trying to wrestle sections of vestibule into contractor bags, frequently going back over to my computer to replay certain songs and turn the volume up even higher. I know birthdays are supposed to be exciting, but I always tend to just get really angsty and sad, and matters aren’t exactly helped by being alone and surrounded by trash with the pressure of trying to procure a new roof and a new boiler before winter sets in weighing on you. Something about listening to that album over and over again helped, though, and made me feel OK. Almost 7 months later, it still sounds fresh and new and exciting to put on. It’s kind of a perfect album.

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Max and I went to see Lorde at the first of her three shows at the Roseland Ballroom on Monday night. I loved her performance at the Grammy’s but I don’t think she sounded all that amazing—I’m sure she was nervous—and I was kind of expecting her to be good. Not spectacular, not bad.

WELL. This show? Incredible. We had general admission tickets and we were pretty much right in the middle of the crowd. Normally, this makes me sort of frustrated and anxious—I don’t like being trapped and surrounded by tons of people, and I always feel really short and like I can’t see anything, and the people around me are always pissing me off in one way or another. But there was just a completely different vibe at Lorde’s show. We basically got to know everyone around us between the opener and when Lorde’s set started, and it was fun to feel like we were experiencing the show with all of these people instead of just trying to block them out. We were packed in tight but nobody was pushing or shoving or making enemies. We were on each other’s team.

Digression: the one thing that totally detracted from the show was the broad use and overuse of cellphones to take pictures or record video. I get that people want to capture the moment and I don’t really see anything wrong with taking a few pictures, but when people hold their phones a foot above their heads and record video of entire songs, it’s is just so rude and obnoxious. There’s a whole group of people behind that person whose  view is completely blocked by the dumb phone, just so that they can capture a crappy low-quality piece of footage that they’ll never watch again. It makes me crazy, and I really hope my generation figures out that this is not OK behavior, or conducive to enjoying live performance. Don’t do it, people. 

Digressing from my digression: how does anyone take halfway decent concert photos with an iPhone? I barely even try to take pictures at concerts anymore because my photos are always, without exception, awful—even when I’m standing close to the stage. It’s like my special power.

Aside from the phones, though, the crowd was great. And Lorde was great. She sounded amazing vocally, and the performance was just completely enchanting. There wasn’t anything technically very flashy or interesting about the production (the lighting and her costumes were very well done, though), but that understatement suits her. When she wasn’t singing, she was personal, humble, incredibly charismatic, and just so cool. I do wish she had played a couple more songs off of the EP and done an encore and played for 7 more hours and come to give me a hug and let me take her out for coffee and let me join the tour and allowed me to play with her hair and tell her my secrets and become her BFF, but other than that it was a perfect concert. She’s going to be around for a long, long time, and I’m so glad we got to see her so early in her career. She’s incredible.

New Yorkers—if you have any way to get yourself to the third and final night of the show at Roseland Ballroom tonight, DO IT. You can usually scalp tickets around the venue or look on Craigslist. And here’s the list of her upcoming US tour dates! And if you don’t know what I’m talking about at all and need to be initiated, go do yourself a favor and download Pure Heroine.

My babies have new collars!

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When we got Mekko just a little over a year ago now, we immediately went to the pet store to pick up all the crap we’d need right away. We weren’t planning to get a dog, so we just ran through the store like crazy people, picking up a crate and treats and food and a leash and collar. It was madness! We had no money! When it came to collar selection, we didn’t put too much thought in and just threw a basic cheap red nylon collar in the basket and called it a day.

I always kind-of-sort-of kept my eyes out for a better collar in the intervening year since, but I never found anything that really fit the bill. We’re not really the types of dog owners who try to get fancy with our dog paraphernalia——I basically just want it to be functional and cheap and OK-looking. If I had a bunch of disposable income, I’d probably change my tune and our dogs would have all the fancy shit that their simple little minds handle. Linus would have a selection of polite lambswool cable-knit sweaters, Mekko would have her nails gold-leafed, and they’d only eat the finest cuts of steak and I’d hire someone to manage Linus’s eye-crusties. But for now we just focus on making sure they can eat and go to the vet and all that.

linuscollar2

Well, it FINALLY occurred to me to check Etsy! DUHZVILLE. I always kind of forget that Etsy is, like, a real thing with real stuff that I probably want in real life (this is definitely for the best), but then I remember and there’s always SOMEBODY selling pretty much exactly what I want. I know I’m not, like, blazing any trails here, but Etsy is a pretty great resource in my experience.

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ANYWAY. I found these wonderful, super simple natural leather collars from Lakeside Leather (all the way from Ireland!). I love how they’re totally unadorned, and I LOVE the tone of the natural leather. If I’m not mistaken, they’ll age and wear over time and develop a really great patina with use, which I’m also excited about. I know zero about leather-craft, but they also seem really well-made and I think will last the dogs a long, long time.

They were also cheap! So very cheap! Mekko (large size) and Linus (small size) were only $20 together, plus shipping.

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Looking pretty good, you two.

 (I wasn’t paid or perked to talk about these collars, I just like them.)

PS- The Homies over at Apartment Therapy are in full swing! I placed last in the nomination round, but now slates have been wiped clean and I’m in 4th place but it could be 1st place if you scoot your cutie booty over the contest and give me your vote for Best Home Design & Inspiration Blog. If you voted in the nominations round, you have to vote AGAIN for it to count in the finals. Voting only lasts a couple days this year, so get to it!

If you do, I promise to never say “scoot your cutie booty” again.

If you don’t, all bets are off.

The Cutest Tool I Own

Max and I both had the morning off today, so we took it upon ourselves to live the Brooklyn Hipster Dream for a couple hours. We brunched. We bought Kinfolk. And then we stopped at one of my favorite nearby stores, Dry Goods.

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Dry Goods on Atlantic Avenue is pretty much the cutest store in the world. The women who own it have such great taste, find the best stuff, and pull all of it together into one tiny wonderful place. They know exactly what everything is, who made it, the history, everything. They pull stuff from literally all over the world, but somehow they have a very consistent and defined sense of style that pervades the entire place. It’s just a great shop to have around and be able to support every once in a while. I should really go back and take a few pictures of the store.

Anyway, while Max was looking at cookbooks, my eyes settled on this little GAM 6-in-1 hammer. I distinctly remember having one of these as a kid (I think my mommy gave it to me), and all the time I used to spend taking it apart and putting it back together again and again. Without terms like “well-designed,” I just remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever and super fun to play with. This was the type of hammer I used to hang and rehang crap all over my walls, and I just remember it coming in handy all the time.

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I never really appreciated how cute it was, though! Look at that thing! I have a serious weakness for brassy bits, always and forever.

I don’t really need another hammer or screwdriver, but I like that this is small enough to sit in a pencil cup on a desk or squeeze in a kitchen drawer, and it’s great to have something small that I can easily throw in a bag when I need to bring a few tools somewhere (this happens more than it seems like it should). So maybe I did need it? No, I definitely needed it.

(for some reason I’m having a really hard time finding a place to buy this little guy online, but luckily Dry Goods just started selling online! Here! Valentine’s gift for your man? For your lady? For your dog? For you? I don’t know your life!)

ps- Homies nomination round ends tomorrow. I’m so close. Just saying. Your move.

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